About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar.
Jesus responded, "Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans?
Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die.
And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites?
Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die."
Then he told them a story: "A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren't any.
He said to his gardener, 'What's going on here? For three years now I've come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?'
"The gardener said, 'Let's give it another year. I'll dig around it and fertilize,
and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn't, then chop it down.'"
He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath.
There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn't even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years.
When Jesus saw her, he called her over. "Woman, you're free!"
He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.
The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, "Six days have been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath."
But Jesus shot back, "You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it.
So why isn't it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?"
When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on.
Then he said, "How can I picture God's kingdom for you? What kind of story can I use?
It's like a pine nut that a man plants in his front yard. It grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches, and eagles build nests in it."
He tried again. "How can I picture God's kingdom?
It's like yeast that a woman works into enough dough for three loaves of bread - and waits while the dough rises."
He went on teaching from town to village, village to town, but keeping on a steady course toward Jerusalem.
A bystander said, "Master, will only a few be saved?"
"Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life - to God! - is vigorous and requires your total attention. A lot of you are going to assume that you'll sit down to God's salvation banquet just because you've been hanging around the neighborhood all your lives.
Well, one day you're going to be banging on the door, wanting to get in, but you'll find the door locked and the Master saying, 'Sorry, you're not on my guest list.'
"You'll protest, 'But we've known you all our lives!'
only to be interrupted with his abrupt, 'Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don't know the first thing about me.'
"That's when you'll find yourselves out in the cold, strangers to grace. You'll watch Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets march into God's kingdom.
You'll watch outsiders stream in from east, west, north, and south and sit down at the table of God's kingdom. And all the time you'll be outside looking in - and wondering what happened.
This is the Great Reversal: the last in line put at the head of the line, and the so-called first ending up last.
Just then some Pharisees came up and said, "Run for your life! Herod's on the hunt. He's out to kill you!"
Jesus said, "Tell that fox that I've no time for him right now. Today and tomorrow I'm busy clearing out the demons and healing the sick; the third day I'm wrapping things up.
Besides, it's not proper for a prophet to come to a bad end outside Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets, abuser of the messengers of God! How often I've longed to gather your children, gather your children like a hen, Her brood safe under her wings - but you refused and turned away!
And now it's too late: You won't see me again until the day you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of God.'"